Gonzales Unhappy With WR Tuesday Practice

It's four days until he's got to put his wide receivers out on the field against the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, and Coach Bill Gonzalez is fuming.

(Photo by Glenn Danforth)

He's somewhat of a perfectionist anyway so he wouldn't be all that happy even trying to compensate for the loss of Bubba Caldwell has been added to his agenda.

Losing Caldwell Saturday was a huge blow to Florida's already thin wide receiver corps. Through three games, the Gators mostly played their starting foursome of Caldwell, Chad Jackson, Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius with tight end Tate Casey coming in as the fifth receiver. Now that Caldwell is out for the season with a broken leg, Gonzales has no choice but to shuffle his receivers around to try to find the right mix. He's got to find a number four receiver and he's got to find someone to take the number five.

"It's killing me," said Gonzales after practice. "Today's practice was bad. We didn't do very good at all. We're trying to move guys around and get guys to play different positions and we just didn't have a good practice at all."

Cornelius is being moved to Caldwell's position and while the junior from Fort Meade has the kind of talent to be a playmaker in the offense, the problem for Gonzales is who is going to step in as the fourth starter in the spread attack? Casey could see an expanded role as a tight end but there is added pressure on Gavin Dickey and Kenneth Tookes to step it up. Casey caught four touchdown passes last season as a freshman so he knows how to find the end zone. Dickey is a quarterback who has been dabbling as a wide receiver since August practices. Tookes is a fourth year junior who has shown he can handle the blocking assignments but his career catch stats total exactly two.

"We have four days to get ready so someone's going to have to step up … maybe more than one," said Gonzales. "If I can get one guy to step it up that's fine … if I can get two … now that's really the goal."

Having Caldwell out also means he may have to get one or two of his three touted freshmen wide receivers --- Nyan Boateng, Louis Murphy or David Nelson --- ready to go but he would prefer that one of the upperclassmen would step it up so he doesn't have to rely on a first year player.

"They [freshmen] are making progress a little bit," he said. "You always try to accelerate them when you get into a situation like this. I'd rather say we have some guys stepping up who are upperclassmen … that we're able to accelerate Gavin Dickey or accelerating Kenneth Tookes … but it's time that someone decides to step it up. Some of these guys need to see that there is a role that needs someone to step into it."

Finding the receiver to step into the fourth slot isn't so much a case of catching the ball --- they can all do that --- as much as it is being consistent blockers. If there is one thing that Gonzales is fanatical about it is that his wide receivers are the best blockers on the team.

"I've been telling them since I've been here, you can't block, you can't play," said Gonzales. "It's plain and simple because we're going to run the ball up the middle and we're going to run the ball on the perimeter. To do that, you have to lay it on the line each day each and every play.

"Blocking has nothing to do with talent. It has more to do with great body position and your commitment to the team. That's your way of displaying your commitment to the team concept by saying 'I can block … come run the ball my way.' It has nothing to do with talent, though."

Cornelius, who figures to have a greatly expanded role in the offense, knows that he's got to ratchet up his game tremendously. He will be running reverses and the option now but he will also be taking on linebackers in the blocking scheme. He's 180 pounds while Caldwell was 205 so he's going to have to work harder to make sure he gets the job done blocking.

"It doesn't matter if you can catch the ball or how fast you can run," said Cornelius. "If you can't block you can't play for him [Gonzales]."

For Cornelius, the physical demands will change but he doesn't believe that will be an issue for him since all the receivers are required to know all the assignments for every receiver position on the field.

"One thing that they preach is that you have to know every position in case a situation like this occurs," he said. "You can't just learn one position … you have to learn the whole offense."

For Billy Gonzales, he has to hope that his position players will be ready to step it up on Saturday against Kentucky. He wasn't happy with what he saw on Tuesday but there are two more practice days before a travel day on Friday and Saturday's game.

"Right now I guess you could say that we're just a work in progress and that we're going to have to keep working at it," he said.

MURPHY WILL PLAY: In his post practice comments, Coach Urban Meyer indicated that Louis Murphy will be seeing his first action Saturday in Lexington on special teams. Murphy is a freshman wide receiver from St. Petersburg Lakewood.

Murphy and fellow freshman Nyan Boateng have caught Meyer's eye lately with their hard work in practice.

"Louis Murphy is making a push right now," said Meyer. "Nyan Boateng is really talented and we have to start pumping him up a little bit … he's as talented a receiver as we have. Tookes is doing a good job as well."

CALDWELL/MCDONALD UPDATE: Caldwell had surgery to repair his broken leg Sunday morning so he's out for the season. Meyer indicated that Florida will apply for a medical redshirt for him since he's not played three full games.

Defensive end Ray McDonald had surgery Monday to repair a partial tear in his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and two torn meniscus. He could be back in four to six weeks.

Meyer said there is a good possibility that Caldwell and McDonald will be traveling with the team on road trips. He said he wouldn't consider that with a non-contributor but because Caldwell and McDonald are "the heart and soul of the team" he said he would think seriously about it.

"A guy that doesn't contribute no way [he would travel]," said Meyer, "but a guy that's the heart and soul of the team, I've done that before."

Of greatest concern, more so with Caldwell because he's in a heavy cast on his leg, is the academic situation.

"My biggest concern is that when guys get hurt they fall apart too," Meyer said. "At Florida, because this is a legitimate big time academic institution, you go two weeks without going to class and you're done. That's our biggest concern is that they're staying on course."

PRACTICE HARD, PLAY HARD: Meyer is a firm believer that the players who start are the ones who go at it the hardest in practice.

"I told our team today … it's amazing for 20 years its' been that way and probably for 200 years… the players that practice the best are the ones grading champion," said Meyer. "They're playing the best. Some players look at you like that's surprising. Vernell Brown is our best practice player. Dee Webb didn't practice hard around here for awhile. Guess who's practicing real hard now? Dee Webb and he's playing well, too. There's a strong correlation."

Fightin Gators Top Stories